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Album Review

Redbeard, the alter ego of Connecticut-based singer/songwriter Sam Miller, superficially fits in with the whole "weird folk" movement popularized by the likes of Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. However, Redbeard's debut album is equally akin to other current folk-rockers like Iron & Wine and Garden Ruin-vintage Calexico: these spare, largely acoustic songs feature twangy, heavily reverbed guitar parts under Miller's smoky voice, but they're otherwise not particularly psychedelic. Indeed, Miller's vocals are definitely Redbeard's most immediately appealing aspect: in a folk scene where even some of the male singers seem to want to approximate Newsom's baby-talk squeal, a singer whose vocal tone is closer to Judy Collins than Joni Mitchell is a welcome change. Miller's songs are somewhat aimless, most of them wandering well over the five-minute mark without the use of middle eights, key changes, or other helpful forms of sonic variety, and the arrangements (featuring Miller and lead guitarist Jae Sherman, with co-producer Nick Lloyd adding some atmospheric keyboards) tend toward sameyness. While that does make the album drag a bit when listened to as a whole, Miller's individual songs are uniformly fine.

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